The ambiguous and unclear provisions in the election laws which are hampering the political representation of all should be further simplified so that everyone can see everyone’s representative in the mirror of local government.
The House of Representatives (HoR) is called so because its members or representatives represent the voice of the people who they represent.
It could be about two and a half years ago, when an indigenous, female member of the House of Representatives from a remote part of the country was making some remarks on political representation, developmental issues, and economic empowerment of women in the House, some of her fellow members erupted in laughter, others were chuckling. The remaining were in dismay and despair. The lawmaker’s expressions also went viral on social media. Viewers found it amusing.
It was not a matter that she was trying to be sarcastic or nor was she telling a joke. Rather, she was representing and recording the actual voice of her fellow people who she belongs to and represents. In fact, no other people under the sun and moon could represent their fellow people in a way better than she was representing in the House. That is because she was expressing her thoughts using the same gestures, colloquial-ness, tone, juncture, tempo, and attire as her fellow people would do while expressing their thoughts or interacting with others in life. She evoked her fellow people in her expressions as it is in the House.
If you compare your representative with her, you can see an ocean of difference between them. I can confirm that your representative can not feel like you; neither can s/he speak like you nor can s/he lead his/her life as you are living. You will realize that your representative turned into a gluttonous, lavish, eloquent and palatial fellow after s/he got elected. All s/he wants now is to rise up to the so-called ‘upper class’ and ‘high positions’ in any way possible. Your ways and goals of living do not match with those of your representative. Now, s/he belongs to your community no longer. You got misrepresented. Your so-called representative can represent you in no way.
At this juncture, political scientists who believe that subalterns cannot speak up, cannot represent themselves and someone out of their community needs to represent them, could also be proved wrong. Their stance is wrong because even if the female lawmaker mentioned at the beginning of the article belongs to a remote area and a downtrodden community, she was representing and reflecting her fellow people in the House in a factual sense.
Such scenes are frequently seen in the other provincial and local level governments, too. It is a representative example in the sphere of political representation and participation. If so, then why did her colleagues in the House laugh at her as if she was the odd one out?
The House of Representatives is a miniature of our community because it is composed of people from our communities. It is therefore spontaneous that it resembles the traits that we are living with; it exhibits the community psychology that prevails in our communities. But the above incident shows that it is not proactive to accept and adopt the different values, and realities prevailing in our communities readily even if the Constitution of Nepal enshrines in its Part I, Article 3 as ‘all the Nepalese people, with multiethnic, multilingual, multi-religious, multicultural characteristics and in geographical diversities, and having common aspirations and being united by a bond of allegiance to national independence, territorial integrity, national interest and prosperity of Nepal, collectively constitute the nation.’
To materialize and channelize the words and spirit of the constitutional provision, the political actors should go for rigorous discussions and consultations with parties, the Election Commission Nepal, election law experts, accessible election experts, and civil society organizations; they may come up with some important insights to make an accessible electoral system which in turn, ensures the political representation and participation of all. The community psychology with which the political actors are ingrained is difficult to overcome but not impossible to get rid of.
The Constitution has adopted the principle of proportional-participatory, and inclusive political representation to ensure the political representation and participation of all in all state bodies. Article 41 of the Constitution says ‘the socially backward women, Dalit, indigenous people, indigenous nationalities, Madhesi, Tharu, minorities, person with disabilities, marginalized communities, muslims, backward classes, gender and sexual minorities, youths, farmers, laborers, oppressed or citizens of backward regions and indigenous Khas Arya shall have the right to participate in the State bodies on the basis of inclusive principle.’ Aligning with this constitutional provision, the Local Level Election Act-2017 should be amended. Political parties also should be proactive to nominate their candidacies from these groups of people in the upcoming local level election voluntarily so that their political representation can be ensured. They should maintain internal democracy by setting positive discrimination provisions for these groups of people in the their statutes and manifestoes. Political parties can also set common provisions to ensure the political representation of these groups of people.
The local governments, in our context, have started to be perceived as the nearest government. But they could remain as the nearest and dearest governments in the long run only if they ensure meaningful representation and active political participation of all. So, everyone can take ownership of it. The Local Level Election Act-2017 has some flaws. It does not specify the political representation of people with disabilities, youths, and sexual minorities and intersex categorically whereas these group of people comprise a considerable portion of the country’s population. These groups of people are being deprived of political representation in the local governments. The ambiguous and unclear provisions in the election laws which are hampering the political representation of all should be further simplified so that all can see everyone’s representative in the mirror of local government.